Thanks to some friendly chatter on a Facebook group I heard rumor yesterday that there had been some changes at Ancestry.com but that only some folks had gotten it rolled out yet (about 1 in 10 at this time). The latest improvement involves the profile pages of folks that administer tests for themselves or others. Now, if you look at a profile page, you can see if the person themselves matches you by DNA or if they administer a test that matches you.
To see what it looks like, go to any profile page. It will look like this if they don’t match you or haven’t been tested:
Notice the word YOUR which is highlighted in blue in the pic above (It might be a different color for you – I use ‘Color That Site!’ a lot on DNA sites to personalize my experience.) If you click on the world YOUR a drop down menu appears of the various accounts you have access to, either because you administer them or because you have been invited to share with them in DNA matching. You can rotate through all the kits you have access to in order to check if the person who owns the profile matches any of them.
Is It Everyone’s Profile?
In this case, I found this profile not by going through my DNA matches, but by searching for public trees who match my grandfather. In fact, I suspect this person is my first cousin and the father of my half cousin once removed who matched me on FTDNA! Therefore, I suspect that he has not done DNA testing since we do not show as a match.
Try a Member Match Profile!
This time I opened a member match and clicked on the admin name. Karen is my sister’s daughter in law so I already knew we didn’t match, but sure enough her daughters and Mary Ann show up as DNA matches as expected.
Once again, if you click on ‘Your’ there is a drop-down of other accounts you have access to and these will show if they are sharing DNA with you or not. Please see below for how that looks. In this case I’m looking through the eyes of my Cousin Barbara’s account. She also matches my sister as well as her grandchildren!
Potential of the New Tool
As we’ve seen here, the tool has at least three major utilities. First, you can see if someone is administrating several people who match you. This can help you determine what side of a family you match on if these matches are at least first or second cousins. In fact, the more distant they are the more they can narrow down that ancestry line!
But what if all the family members are close. If your match isn’t very communicative it may be hard to tell that, but sometimes you can make educated guesses even if you have to check surnames in their tree that start with common last initials. Again, you’re guessing but it should be an educated guess and may help. The ancestors of very close matches, siblings, parents, aunts and uncles, grandchildren etc. need to be discounted when considering whether you have multiple hits on a common ancestor and this will help you do that.
The third way the tool can help is one of discovery. If you are researching your tree and looking at the profiles of folks who have your known or suspected ancestors in their tree, you may discover a DNA match to help confirm your lines! Perhaps you are super efficient and have looked at and keep up on all your DNA matches but I freely admit that I rarely look past my 4th-6th cousins because there are so many of them! Plus, being French Canadian it gets very frustrating opening a profile of someone who doesn’t seem French only to discover that they are indeed FC after all. This way, if I’m researching on the German or Irish side of my family, I might discover one of these more distant matches through paper research!
Room for Improvement
One way that the tool could be improved would be if it said how many total profiles the administrator is in charge of. So if you’re related to 3 people they administer, how do we know if that’s all they tested or if we might be able to winnow out more information by who we do or do not match? Sure, communication with admins would be the best way but we all know that sometimes people do not log in for a year or more. If they don’t want to give any information on folks that we don’t match – and I do not know that to be the case – it would be good to at least tell us if the admin has tested or not and not simply that we don’t match. As we have seen from other sites, we won’t match one in ten of our third cousins and half of our fourth cousins!
Overall I think that this is an innovative and helpful tool. I’m glad to see that they continue to make improvements on the user experience at Ancestry. I would still like them to start mtDNA testing again and adding that to known profiles so that we could perhaps form a web of maternal confirmation (or Y testing.) Please add your suggestions on how else we might use this new tool and any improvements that you’d like to see in how it’s been implemented in the comment section below.